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What to expect at the upcoming 12th installment of the ATX Television Festival

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin star in "Succession."
Claudette Barius
Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin star in "Succession."

What have you been watching of late? Are there new TV programs you can’t wait to talk about or maybe some reruns you keep coming back to?

There is a place to go to celebrate everything you love about TV, and they call it the ATX Television Festival. Season 12 is coming up in June.

To learn more about what attendees can expect in this installment, the Standard welcomed Caitlin McFarland, festival co-president and founder, and Jenn Morgan, director of programming. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Let’s begin with you, Jenn. Before we get to the festival, I have to ask what you’ve been watching of late. 

Steven Yeun as Danny in “Beef.”
Andrew Cooper
Netflix © 2023
Steven Yeun as Danny in “Beef.”

Jenn Morgan: Sure, well, the most recent thing that I watched and loved was “Beef” on Netflix. So it’s a quick binge, but it’s a ten episode dark comedy about two strangers who become involved, obsessed with each other through a road rage incident. It’s quite a ride.

Caitlin, what about you? 

Caitlin McFarland: Well, like most people, I’ve been watching “Succession” week to week. I will not put in any spoilers, but last week was insane. It’s the final season, so I’m relishing every minute of the both fictional, and somehow seems real-life, family of the Roys on HBO.

You know, there’s been so much attention on “Succession.” It’s been hard to avoid the spoilers, hasn’t it?

Caitlin McFarland: It has. I was actually a little behind and I managed until Tuesday – it airs on Sundays – so I knew something big happened, but I didn’t know what it was. And now I feel like I need to rewatch it because I was on the edge of my seat.

Nicholas Braun stars in "Succession."
Macall B. Polay
Nicholas Braun stars in "Succession."

Oh my gosh. You know, I haven’t gotten sucked into “Succession” yet, but all signs point to, “yeah, I got to do this.” All right, Jenn, let’s shift gears over to the ATX TV Festival set for season 12 to get underway. As director of programming, how much do you still have up in the air? How much is still in the works? 

Jenn Morgan: Oh, what a great question. We do still have some pieces – a handful of exciting things that we haven’t yet announced, but we have a good chunk of programming out there for people to get excited about. But yeah, we’re narrowing in on the few final pieces, so we’re almost there.

What’s the hard part of doing this? Getting clearances and that sort of thing? Does that tie up in knots or is that not such a big deal for something like that? 

Jenn Morgan: I think less clearances and more the juggling of people, people’s schedules and priorities. Yeah, timing of the network and the studio, like their priorities. And then if it’s their priority, is the actor or the showrunner available? And can we kind of cross section the whole thing to balance, you know, our past, current and premiere TV?

Yeah, because it’s not just screenings. This is a festival and that means sort of connecting with the people both on and off screen, right? I mean, that’s part of the appeal. 

Jenn Morgan: Oh, 100%. Our festival, I think all festivals, the big part about it is the community. It’s sharing it with one another. And ours is a really interesting mix of industry and fans. You know, sharing a drink or a taco and talking about their favorite TV shows. One of the things I’m really excited about this year that we haven’t gotten to talk about that much, to be honest, is we are moving into ACL Live theater, which is where they film Austin City Limits. It is the biggest theater we will have been in today by about twice as much. So we’ll have more opportunities for single tickets. But one of the things we’re putting in there is our “Cheers” reunion.

Oh, that’s pretty great. 

Jenn Morgan: 40 years since it began. 30 years since it ended. We’re planning some really exciting stuff. A script reading, some music. We got to hear the theme song, and we have the creators and the cast. I mean, I personally am very excited for Ted Danson, not just for “Cheers,” but to see Sam Malone on stage is something that we’re really stoked about.

Well, speaking of places where everybody knows your name, Caitlin McFarland as co-president and founder of the ATX TV Festival 12 years in the making, what about your initial vision for this festival? Does it keep getting bigger each year, or are you just sort of refining in some ways what you’ve already established? 

Caitlin McFarlandIt’s funny, it sort of balances a very clear, original vision of myself and Emily’s of that past/present/premiere TV, the fans and the industry coming together. That was always sort of at the core of our festival.

For folks who may not know, Emily is? 

Caitlin McFarland: Emily Gibson is my co-president and co-founder… friend. She’s so many things that she lost labels for me. But yeah, that kind of coming together was always at the center of it. And I, to my own mystification, am still surprised that, whether it was virtually or in person, that it still exists – that sort of discovery. Its locations may have changed, we’re not in the same buildings we used to be in and we have more people there. But that sort of intimate, accessible community is still at the heart of it. And yeah, I’m grateful every year that it remains.

And yet, you know, it seems to get bigger and bigger with more and more. I mean, you imagine the “Cheers” reunion is going to be getting national attention. You just can’t help but think that it will. What’s got you most excited about the current lineup? 

Caitlin McFarland: You know, I always love the balance that we have. So something like “Cheers” is great, but we also have a new show actually – Jenn, you can probably tell me if it’s even aired – that is on Freevee, which is Amazon Prime’s free platform. You don’t have to pay anything and it’s called “Jury Duty” and it’s sort of half scripted, half reality about a guy that gets called in for jury duty. And it seems very simple, but James Marsden’s in it and it’s just a very sweet and funny show that took me by surprise. And so having things like that balanced with the “Cheers” of it all or our opening night is the new iteration of “Justified” on FX. It’s called “City Primeval” and we get it premiere that. So it’s not a reboot, it’s not a remake, but it is a familiar property. Being able to balance those different things is always what I get so excited about.

Jenn I know you’re focused on the here and now and what’s to come in the immediate future, but who’s your dream guest or premiere event? You have someone that you really wish you could nab?

Jenn Morgan: I mean, Ted Danson has been on that list for a long time. But honestly, the dream reunion for me that we haven’t had yet is “New Girl.” That’s sort of one of my ultimate comfort shows. And I just, it remains the thing that makes me the happiest, especially when I’m in stressed and planning mode. So yeah, hopefully one day we’ll make that happen.

Caitlin, you want to weigh in here? You have a dream guest or something over the years?

Caitlin McFarland: There’s so many. I mean, over the years I will say it used to be “Friends” – the “Friends” cast. And we have had the creator, Marta Kauffman, to the festival a number of times. We adore her. I do think that “Friends,” they did a big HBO reunion and I think some of my bubble was popped. That’s the other part, is like trying to get to these things before somebody else. But gosh, that list is so, I mean, I’m such a TV fan – I have been. So our award is also something – you know, we’ve given it to Norman Lear. So there’s people like Carol Burnett and the old stalwarts that we definitely want to get to and host in Austin if we can.

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Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.